The following is from a handwritten note, sealed in plastic with newspaper clippings, given to me by my mother when I was an adult. She was twenty-years-old when she composed this.
Nov. 22, 1963
I was at home with Dick when I heard of the president being shot. My mother (your grandmother) called me on the telephone.
“Turn on the radio, the president’s been shot!”
“Was he killed?”
“I don’t know. Your father just told me. He had heard it on the car radio. I’ve got to go now and listen for more news.”
We hung up the phone. It was 2:30 in the afternoon. I put on the television and almost immediately the news came over.
“Official news from Washington has just disclosed that at approximately 12:45 PM Dallas time President John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, died of a gunshot wound at a Dallas hospital. We will continue broadcasting as news comes in.”
I sat in our living-room – stunned.
I remember saying to your father, “Who could do such a terrible, ridiculous thing to such a man, what did it accomplish?”
“Some crackpot who didn’t know any better probably,” he said.
The hours that followed that night were spent clinging to our television set. Gradually we gathered the news and learned the story of what had happened and what was going to happen now.
President Johnson was sworn into office that evening as the world mourned.
As the days passed we watched the sad funeral and the widow in her grief and gradually we came to realize that this great man was no more.
I had been a Kennedy supporter since my high school days, when he was elected to office. My biggest regret is that I never had the privilege to vote for him as I surly would have done in the next election.
For three days after his death the television suspended all programing. All stations carried continuous news and photography of the events of his death and funeral. The radio carried only religious music and news with all advertisements suspended. All stores were closed and business and industry came to a halt in grave mourning and respect. The whole country crowded churches for special services in his honor.
All through this period of mourning two thoughts constantly passed my mind. First was the horror of a wife, not unlike myself in many ways, seeing her husband shot down at her side and being left with nothing but memories. Second was this statement I heard on television the day of his death, “A final touch of morbid irony was that all presidents elected in a zero year, have died of natural or unnatural causes in office.”
It seemed to me that fate had a large role in this Tragic event after I heard that statement.
I have written this little note to you and for you, my child, to remind you that history is a living thing and not just names in a book. This tragedy you will learn of in school, but we lived it. And in a way so did you. You see, I was carrying you at this time.